Understanding Macros

Written by Jamie Susino

0

April 5, 2022

What is a Macro?

You’ve probably heard the term “macro” thrown around at the gym or while reading something fitness or food related, but what does it mean? Macro is short for macronutrient, which means the large groups of food that comprise the majority of your calories. There are three groups of macronutrients:

  • Protein – meats, fish, eggs

  • Carbohydrates – grains, starches, fiber, fruits, veggies

  • Fats – oils/butters, nuts, seeds

Regardless of what you’ve heard over the years, none of these macronutrients are inherently “bad.” With a proper macronutrient balance, you’ll be able to optimize your health, your energy, and results in the gym!

Protein

1g of Protein = 4 Calories

Arguably the most important macro, protein is the building block for muscle. It not only helps with your gym gains, but also assists with energy, recovery, and satiety. If you find yourself tired and hungry all the time, check your daily protein intake! While the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) insists on .8 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight, you may want to consider eating closer to your body weight in grams of protein per day. This is especially true if you’re in the gym multiple days a week lifting weights. This is important for muscle, bone, nutrient absorption, energy levels, and even blood sugar levels.

Carbohydrates

1g of Carbohydrates = 4 Calories

CARBS ARE NOT BAD. Please, repeat that sentence. And then do it again! I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say they are cutting out carbs entirely to lose weight. Not only are carbs important for helping you through even the toughest workouts, they’re imperative for brain function! If you’ve ever tried cutting out carbs, you may experience a little bit of what some refer to as “brain fog.” This is not ideal and while your choice of whole foods makes a big difference, you should never cut out an entire macronutrient from your diet.

When someone throws out the term “carb”, they’re usually referring to bread, pasta, DONUTS, etc. While a donut every once in a while is not the end of the world, there are much better options when it comes to your day-to-day food. Choose “healthy” carbs vs “unhealthy carbs” to optimize your workouts and overall health. Your meal selection should ideally focus on complex carbs that can fuel you such as sweet potatoes, fruits, veggies, and beans. These are nutrient dense foods that can help you sustain energy levels as they take a longer time for the body to break down. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) cut out carbs entirely…but try to make the best choice for your health!

Fats

1g of Fats = 9 Calories

Now, you might notice a big difference in the amount of calories per gram of fat in comparison to proteins and carbs. That is not a typo. Fats tend to be higher calorie and more nutrient dense than other food sources, but that doesn’t make them a bad choice or something you should avoid. Both carbohydrates and fats are direct energy sources, carbs being faster to act and fats being more of a long term energy source. Again, overall balance across every macro is imperative so you wouldn’t want to leave out fats entirely. Being mindful of not overdoing it is key!

Eating healthy fats can be healthy for hormones, the cardiovascular system, blood pressure, and can even lower bad cholesterol (LDL) while raising good cholesterol (HDL). We also rely on fats for energy, nutrient absorption, and cell function.

It’s crucial to make sure you don’t overdo it when it comes to fats. Example: you’re lounging around the house and decide to enjoy some mixed nuts or trail mix as a healthy snack. Before you know it, your entire container of nuts is empty and you’ve just consumed thousands of calories in the blink of an eye. A single almond is roughly 7 calories. Just a small handful (10 almonds) is an easy 70 calories that goes down fast and accumulates throughout the day. A single tablespoon of peanut butter (when measured accurately) is roughly 95 calories. Again, these are not unhealthy snack options if the serving sizes are kept in mind! But if you find yourself going back for handfuls at a time, it might be worth it to measure out serving sizes and really track how much you’re consuming.

Balanced Macros

What does a healthy balance look like? Doing an InBody scan with us is a great place to start! From here, we can use your stats to figure out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which is the amount of calories you burn without taking exercise into account. This scan will also give an estimate of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the amount of calories your body needs to perform basic functions properly while at rest.

Using these numbers, we can calculate where your maintenance calories should be. This is your body’s comfortable baseline to maintain homeostasis, neither gaining nor losing. We usually recommend clients eat at their baseline calories for a period of time before immediately jumping into a big deficit.

Example: A 36 year old female, 150lbs, 30% body fat, 5’5”

This individual exercises 3-5 times per week and has a BMR of 1470. Her baseline/maintenance calories are estimated to be around 2200. The three macros (protein, carbs, fats) will make up her daily allotment of calories and it might look something like this:

Protein – 150g (600 cals)

Carbs – 200 g (800 cals)

Fats – 89g (800 cals)

This is most definitely not a one size fits all scenario as calories and macros can be individualized on preference, performance, and results. You may be someone who functions better on a higher carb breakdown, someone who functions better on a lower carb breakdown, or somewhere in the middle.

If the individual is looking to drop fat or weight, I would recommend a slow decrease in calories for sustainability over time. The best nutrition plan is the one that works, but also the one that is sustainable. This might not even mean counting macros and calories in the long run, but finding a way to eat intuitively to satisfaction for a period of time followed by a slow decrease in certain food groups (usually small amounts of fats and/or carbs) without eliminating anything entirely.

This is a lot of information and understanding nutrition overall can be CONFUSING, and we totally get it! Having someone guide you along the way can be a great method of staying accountable, feeling good, seeing results, and staying healthy overall. Ask a coach or front desk staff about our nutritional guidance if you need some help!

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